Fibromyalgia is a chronic and widespread syndrome of musculoskeletal pain that affects many systems in the body. It is likely caused by amplified pain signals in the brain, though the psychological aspects of the condition are not fully understood. Fibromyalgia affects between two and five percent of the general population of the United States, 90 percent of which being female — making it the most common cause of generalized musculoskeletal pain in young and middle-aged women.
Although anyone can get fibromyalgia, the condition is most commonly observed in women of childbearing age. It is important to note that men, as well as the elderly and even children can suffer from fibromyalgia as well.
Note that a malfunction in the central nervous system is the main determinant of fibromyalgia, and that stress and other psycho-behavioral factors are significant factors in the advent of fibromyalgia.
In the early stages of fibromyalgia, you may begin to notice problems with your memory and ability to concentrate. You may find that you are overly sensitive to noise, light and temperature change. You may have chronic stomach aches, headaches, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, pelvic pain, restless leg syndrome and feel depressed.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia symptoms may accumulate gradually without a particular catalyst to mark their onset. In other cases, symptoms of fibromyalgia may develop following a surgery, infection, or physically or psychologically traumatic event.
Fatigue is an extremely common symptom associated with fibromyalgia. If you are frequently tired despite spending sufficient time at rest, the quality of your sleep may be affected by pain you’re enduring while you’re asleep.
Difficulty falling asleep, awakening during the night, and feeling exhausted upon waking are common symptoms of fibromyalgia. Try and get enough rest so that you feel able to take on your day.
2. Chronic Pain
Fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread, chronic pain in multiple areas of the body. If you have been experiencing pain in multiple parts of your body for over three months, it may be associated with fibromyalgia.
Pain is the primary symptom of fibromyalgia. It can exist as deep muscular pain, soreness, stiffness, burning or throbbing. Pain from fibromyalgia will occur on both sides of your body, as well as above and below your waist. Muscle stiffness usually presents upon awakening and usually decreases in severity throughout the day.
The spots you should check for chronic pain include:
- The front of your chest, at the second rib
- The front and back of your neck
- The back of your shoulders near the arms, and the areas covering your shoulder blades
- The rear parts of your hips
- Both sides of your bottom
- Your knees
- Your elbows
People with fibromyalgia are at increased risk of developing chronic depression. In all likelihood, this depression results from having to deal with constant pain, loss of sleep, lack of energy, and being forced to give up activities the patient once enjoyed.
For patients, the good news is that fibromyalgia seems to respond well to certain antidepressants. These drugs don’t just help relieve the symptoms of depression, but they also seem to calm down the constant pain, muscle stiffness, muscle spams and other physiological symptoms of fibromyalgia. Your doctor may prescribe them even if you haven’t developed any symptoms of depression.
4. Disturbed Sleep
One of the classic early symptoms of fibromyalgia is feeling like you can’t get a good night’s sleep. Your rest may be disrupted, or you may sleep but wake up feeling unrefreshed. If you have fibromyalgia, your body may not have the right balance of chemicals to allow your body to enter a state of deep restful sleep.
Almost everyone endures headaches from time to time, but those who suffer from fibromyalgia may get headaches – and even migraines – with particular regularity. More than half of a patients with fibromyalgia have headaches. These headaches include tension and migraine headaches. Fibromyalgia is correlated with an increased frequency of headaches. Talk to a health care professional about frequent headaches.
6. Fibro Fog
Another common symptom associated with fibromyalgia is an inability to concentrate. Other similar cognitive difficulties, such as difficulty paying attention or concentrating on simple tasks, may be the result of fibromyalgia.
This condition has earned its own nickname: “fibro-fog”. The cognitive impairments associated with fibromyalgia are most likely caused by ongoing sleep loss, but some researchers aren’t sure it can be explained away so easily. There is some evidence to suggest that the condition may actually inhibit the brain’s ability to function normally by interfering with its synaptic pathways.
7. Sensitivity to Touch
There are two medical terms which cover the increased sensitivity to touch that most fibromyalgia patients experience: hyperalgesia and hyperesthesia. Hyperalgesia describes an increase in pain sensation; for instance, you might stub your toe on a table leg, only to feel an excrutiating and throbbing pain for hours or days afterwards. Hyperesthesia, on the other hand, describes an increased sensitivity to the sensory input of touch; for example, being under a light blanket may make you feel as though you’re trapped under a heavy lead weight.
In extreme cases, both hyperalgesia and hyperesthesia may become so severe that the patient is functionally unable to participate in routine activities. Some fibromyalgia patients describe a sort of cycle associated with these symptoms. Sensitivity will flare up and symptoms will worsen, then it will alleviate and the patient will be able to return to their normal activities until the cycle starts all over again.
8. Numbness and Tingling
It is also likely that fibromyalgia patients experience numbness and/or tingling in their limbs or face from time to time. The sensation is known to arise sporadically and without warning, causing much unexpected discomfort.
In some instances, it is not just numbness and tingling but also itching and burning of the skin that plague the sufferer. Such symptoms are particularly hard to treat, but fortunately, they are not the most commonly occurring symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Other Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Aside from those symptoms that are used to help diagnose fibromyalgia, there are other conditions that are commonly experienced by those who suffer from fibromyalgia. If any of the following occur, be sure to mention them to your doctor:
- Irritable bowel syndrome, commonly referred to as IBS
- Sensitivity to temperature changes
- Hearing and vision problems
- Feelings of weakness, or struggles with balance
- Interstitial cystitis or painful bladder symptoms
- The onset of previously absent allergic reactions, and sensitivity to chemicals
- Heart palpitations, heartburn, and low blood pressure
- Facial and jaw pain and tenderness caused by TMJ
Getting Medical Help
It often takes some patients – even with the help of doctor – up to five years to recognize that they have fibromyalgia. This is because so many of the symptoms mimic other health issues. Getting a proper diagnosis as early as possible, however, will help you better be able to address the condition. Your doctor will be most capable of helping you determine the best approach to countering any symptoms you may be enduring.